A New and Improved Tactical Decision Making Model, Part 1

By Richard Mueller

In my previous series of articles (“Tragedies of Strategy” and “Are You Four or Against Strategy?”), I examined some travesties and unintended (but too often felt) consequences of using an aggressive offensive attack as our primary decision making process and described the benefits of using an alternative four-step approach to strategy. I defined, prioritized, and connected a defensive, transitional, marginal, and offensive strategy to examine an attainable and honest risk management plan; a no-cost solution to reducing firefighter deaths, damage, and disease rates.

In this next series, I turn this thinking (strategy) into actions, or tactics. Just like the strategic priority of defensive, transitional, marginal, and offensive actions, tactics also must be prioritized to ensure tactical logic and tactical sense. This tactical priority is called a tactical decision making model, and it establishes a sequential priority to tactical actions. This is absolutely critical when tactics cannot be performed simultaneously by multiple companies and must be done sequentially by one company, which is more often the case because of staffing cuts and station closures.

Although ventilation, attack, and search are all important fireground tactics, the order in which they are played out is critical to determining how the tactic will be implemented and how effective it will be. This tactical priority determines what gets done first, what gets done second, and what will have to wait.

Tactics are what bring form and function to strategy; they are the methods used to obtain our incident benchmarks. The PREVIS2-OS tactical decision-making priority model is a product of the Fire Company 4 System, which is based on the first-in company having to operate on its own for the first 10 minutes of an incident.

PREVIS2-OS is an acronym that represents the fireground tactical priorities of Perimeter, Rescue, Exterior Attack, Ventilation, Interior Attack, and Search (primary and secondary) with Overhaul and Salvage as supporting, complimentary tactics that are accomplished when appropriate (i.e., overhaul after attack). These tactical priorities are accomplished in the order that they appear in the acronym by the first-in company. This tactical priority model provides a more effective way to firefight in today’s faster moving, more toxic, and less forgiving fireground than those of the past.

PREVIS2-OS is based off of the REVAS1,2 tactical priority model developed in the 1980s, which emphasizes (and recognizes the importance of) venting structures prior to interior attacks. The REVAS acronym represents the tactical priorities of Rescue, Exposures, Ventilation, Attack, and Salvage.

The REVAS model was an upgrade from the RECEO model developed by Chief Lloyd Layman in the 1950s. RECEO was the foundation for Layman’s book Fire Fighting Tactics, published in 1953. His tactical priorities of Rescue, Exposures, Confinement, Extinguish, and Overhaul (with Salvage and Ventilation as a support function) were innovative for their time but were developed when a 2 × 4 was truly 2 × 4 inches, cut-and-stack framing still existed, and interior furnishings were still primarily made from natural materials. Back then, it was not uncommon for multiple fire companies to respond with five- or even six-person companies!

Fast forward to 2013—framing materials are now made from small dimensional lumber and engineered wood products. Floor plans are an open concept that includes many common spaces with few, if any, doors. Lightweight trusses with gusset plates are the antigravity mechanisms of choice, and interior furnishings are primarily made out of plastics and hydrocarbons (comfortable gasoline). These interior furnishings burn more quickly and produce many times more British thermal units and poisonous toxins than natural materials3, creating atmospheres that are survivable only for a very short time. Additionally, fire companies today consist of only three or four members. (If they have not already been one of the fire companies that have been closed or browned out because of budget reductions and the volunteer retention problems.) This is what the insightful and forward-thinking developers of the REVAS model figured out back in the 1980s, and this is where the PREVIS2-OS model of the Fire Company 4 system assists today’s fire companies.

Today, fire companies must be able to do more than just read and understand smoke. They must have the discipline, training, and tools to get water on the fire faster and make removing smoke a high priority at all scenes. Smoke is made up of many components, none of which are helpful or healthy, but what is most important is that smoke is fuel. Quick removal is critical to the quality and sustainability of occupants and the fire company members who go inside. Because of increased self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) usage, lung cancer is no longer a firefighter’s disease. However, smoke still damages, diseases, and causes death by asphyxiation; flashover; disorientation; and testicular, prostate, brain, and lymphoma cancers far too often.4

The REVAS tactical priority model was a 30-year upgrade to the 1950s RECEO-VS model. The PREVIS2-OS is a 30-year upgrade to the REVAS model. The PREVIS2-OS model shares the emphasis of the REVAS model by promoting the need to ventilate and protect exposures (exterior attack) before entering structures for an interior attack and ensures that a 360° size-up is attempted. It also acknowledges the differences between a search and a rescue by adding a stand-alone search step.

Modifying the beginning and the end of the REVAS model the PREVIS2-OS model provides fire companies with a more comprehensive decision-making tool that emphasizes getting water on the fire sooner, current ventilation research and technology improvements (positive pressure ventilation), the reality of today’s fire company staffing, and realistic victim survivability profiles.

PREVIS2-OS is pronounced similarly to “previous.” Like “previous,” it is an acronym that represents the simple fact that 90 percent of the effort toward being a professional occurs before, or “previous,” to going in. Fire companies not proactively preparing by spending considerable time planning, practicing, and measuring performance find themselves reacting to fireground factors rather than systematically creating safer fireground environments. Reacting fire companies will end up playing more like an amateur rather than a professional because of their inability to control the environment or even themselves, especially when the going gets tough. Preventing bad things from happening on the fireground places fire companies in a position to prevail.

In parts 2, 3, and 4, I will define each of the PREVIS2-OS tactical components (Perimeter, Rescue, Exterior Attack, Ventilation Interior Attack, Search 1 & 2, and Overhaul and Salvage) in detail, how each tactical component earned its tactical priority position and explain why you should consider using it.

 

ENDNOTES

  1. Developed by Battalion Chief (ret.) Bob Martinez, Los Angeles City (CA) Fire Department; Division Chief (ret.) Gene Chandler, Loveland (CO) Fire Department; Captain (ret.) Mark Sprenger, Loveland (CO) Fire Department; and Chief Randy Bruegman, Fresno (CA) Fire Department.
  2. Appeared in the first addition of the Fire Attack training program by On Guard Inc.
  3. "New vs. Old Room Fire" (video), Underwriters Laboratory: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDNPhq5ggoE.
  4. LeMasters GK, PhD; Genaidy AM, PhD; Succop P, PhD; et al. Cancer Risk Among Firefighters: A Review and Meta-analysis of 32 Studies. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 48(11):1189-1202, November 2006.

Photo found on Wikimedia Commons courtesy of MarcusObal.

 

Richard Mueller is a battalion chief for the West Allis (WI) Fire Department. He is a fire instructor for Waukesha and Gateway Technical College and a technical rescue instructor for the WI REACT Center. He is a member of the Federal DMORT V and WI Task Force 1 Team and a Partner with the WI FLAME Group. He is the author of the firefighting textbook Fire Company 4and can be reached at Rick@Wiflamegroup.com

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